Contribution starting at $3,495
Exported from Streamline App (https://app.streamlineicons.com)
14 days (avg. $499 a day) Includes accommodations, food, and all related research costs
Wildlife & Ecosystems

Wildlife of the Mongolian Steppe

Location
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, Dornogobi Aimag, Mongolia Map it
Activity Level
Very Active
Accommodations
Wilderness Camp
Food
Chef-prepared meals
A tagged Argali mountain sheep is released (C) Dave Kenny
A small gazelle is released (C) Alix Morris
Earthwatch volunteers set up netting to capture wildlife (C) Alix Morris
Argali sheep are herded into a capture area (C) Kofi Opoku-Ansah
Earthwatch volunteers quickly collect data from a capture gazelle
Earthwatch volunteers record data (C) Dave Kenny
Earthwatch volunteers walk back to camp (C) Jennifer Green
A tagged Argali mountain sheep is released (C) Dave Kenny
A small gazelle is released (C) Alix Morris
Earthwatch volunteers set up netting to capture wildlife (C) Alix Morris
Argali sheep are herded into a capture area (C) Kofi Opoku-Ansah
Earthwatch volunteers quickly collect data from a capture gazelle
Earthwatch volunteers record data (C) Dave Kenny
Earthwatch volunteers walk back to camp (C) Jennifer Green

Explore the lives of grassland animals, from the hedgehog to the Siberian ibex, to help conserve their wilderness home.


A man on horseback scans the plains for wildlife

Mongolia hosts a rich diversity of wildlife, especially compared with other Central Asian nations. Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, with 666 square kilometers (257 square miles) of grassland and arid steppe habitats, provides a protected home for many of its species. But even within the bounds of the reserve, the animals of Ikh Nart face threats from poaching, illegal mining, and overgrazing. Local counties manage protected areas for the Mongolian federal government, but they lack the resources to provide active stewardship.

This magnificent region of semiarid grasslands and rocky outcrops is one of the best hopes for wildlife in central Asia. Argali sheep, saker falcon, cinereous vultures, and other animals threatened throughout their range find a stronghold here. Herds of graceful Mongolian gazelles and goitered gazelles roam freely through the reserve. For the past several years, Earthwatch teams have worked to study and conserve the area's wildlife, including the "near-threatened" argali—the largest mountain sheep in the world, with huge, curling horns.

Join this team to explore this wilderness landscape in a way few people get the opportunity to experience. Your work will be used to develop improved conservation management policies in the reserve and help conserve this magnificent landscape and the life that depends on it.

 

A Typical Itinerary

  • Day 1: Meet in Ulaanbaatar, cultural activities, dinner
  • Day 2: Travel to field site
  • Days 3-11: Hike to survey animals/plants, capture argali sheep, track birds of prey
  • Day 12: Travel to Ulaanbaatar
  • Day 13: Recreation day in Ulaanbaatar, including cultural activities, team dinner, and goodbyes
  • Day 14: Departure

HOW YOU WILL HELP

You’ll travel to the research site by train, through the mountains of the north, to the semidesert steppe, giving you a chance to enjoy Mongolia’s vast landscapes that remain largely free of fences and paved roads. You'll hike four to six miles a day, accompanied by members of the project’s team of Mongolian experts and students. Once at the field site, you will:
Earthwatch volunteers radio-track wildlife
Radio-track wildlife

The researchers have already radio-collared some argali sheep, ibex, hedgehogs, Pallas’s colubers (a type of snake), and kestrels. You'll collect radio-telemetry data from these animals, which allows researchers to track their location. You'll also put radio tracking devices on animals that don't yet have them. The September team will help herd argali and ibex into nets, then help collect data on them and safely release them.

Earthwatch volunteers hike to survey vegetation and wildlife
Hike to survey vegetation and wildlife

Measure and identify plants in research plots throughout the reserve. Some groups of volunteers will walk along set paths to spot lizards or argali sheep, then record the animal's behavior and location.

A female kestrel in a nest with several chicks
Track vultures and kestrels

In the summer, volunteers will look for the nests of these birds of prey, then note their GPS locations and measure the nestlings.

Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

FEEDBACK & QUESTIONS

6 Reviews on this Expedition

If you have been on this expedition, others considering attending would love to hear about your experience.
Susan Livesay | March 6, 2019
This was my first Earthwatch experience, and the bar is now set high for any subsequent expeditions! The time spent in Mongolia was interesting, educational, and enjoyable. Especially meaningful was the opportunity to work as part of a team that included – in addition to the other volunteers – Mongolian graduate students, rangers, veterinarians, drivers, “horsemen” (some on motorcycles), and camp staff. All exuded warmth, good nature and a sense of humor while collectively providing unique insight into Mongolian culture. It was rewarding to take part in the research being directed by Gana, who also played a major role in setting the upbeat and congenial tone at the site while at the same time keeping all of us on task. I came away with a new appreciation of the vast landscape and its people as well as for the work being done at Ikh Nart. If you are interested in engaging in the research, are eager to experience firsthand a slice of life in this interesting country, and are willing to be flexible (weather and wild critters may dictate your days), by all means, sign up for this expedition and head to Mongolia!
Douglas Bender | December 11, 2017
Earthwatch Mongolia is a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed. You get fully immersed into the Mongolian culture while doing excellent scientific work. It is a very tight- knit team of volunteers, scientists, veterinarians, students, and support staff. A true joint venture mostly made up of Mongolians. The leader, Gana Wingard, along with her Mongolian partner, Tuguldur Enkhtsetseg, does an excellent job running a large enterprise, and is very concerned about the welfare of the volunteers. The actual science work is not to be missed. Our team caught wild gazelles in nets and helped the veterinarians take blood samples and put on radio collars. We could see the first data before we left. This data is important to characterize the range and necessary protected zones for the gazelles and other animals. We also saw, up close and personal, the very friendly Mongolian people, both those living in towns and those living as nomadic herders.
Trina Warren | October 9, 2017
I loved exploring the fascinating and harsh environment of the Gobi with a passionate and enthusiastic Mongolian research team. This project is working with Mongolian students and is also supported by the Denver Zoo to do important research on essential species that reside in the Gobi. The research topics are broad so you have the opportunity to collect several types of research data - vultures, bats, snake, lizards, rodents (some I would have never imagined!), argali sheep and ibex were all topics of focus. The different topics add diversity as well as allow for versatility when needed - be flexible, sometime you have to adapt to a blown tire or a weather extreme. Research data in these remote and difficult environments is so essential and so is supporting and inspiring local young people to further their careers in science and conservation - both of which make this expedition so rewarding. We had the opportunity to learn about the local cultures, traditions, some archaeology, and dancing at the disco (no kidding - it was so much fun). The research team is an amazing group of people and we had a fantastic time learning from each other, working together, and enjoying each others company.

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